Posted in Ausralian women writers challenge 2013

AWW2013 read

Bitter Greens

Kate Forsyth Bitter Greens First Published: April 2012 (UK; 2013; Alison and Busby Publisher:) Random House Australia ISBN: 976-1-74166-845-2 Pages: 551

By Kate Forsyth (Goodreads Author)

Well, it’s been quite a time since my last post and it’s been even longer since I did a AWW2013 review. So, I’m back and reviewing a great Aussie woman’s work. I’ve been waiting to read this book for quite some time. It was published in Australia a yearish ago.  Therefore, there has been  a buzz about this book. This buzz, and my own sense of anticipation, made me slightly fearful. Would I like this book? Would It be as good as people were saying it was? Would it be as good as I thought that it would be? However, I needn’t have been so fearful.  I really liked this book.

Did you know who first  wrote, the European version, of the Rampunzul fairy tale?  It was Charlotte Rose. That fact is at the heart of Bitter Greens. This work is; the story of that folk story, a re-working of that tale, a story of the women who played a role in it and the woman who created the story we know today. It is basically the story of three women; a woman (Margherita) who is locked in a tower by a witch who wishes to remain young, Charlotte Rose who is sent to a nunnery as a punishment for growing old and annoying a monarch, and a woman (Selena) who is forced to become a courtesan, and artists’ model, following the brutal rape of her mother.

This story explores the role of women within the French society, and French narrative, at various points in history. Women occupy an insecure position within this world, a position which is determined by the whims of men.  Charlotte’s mother occupies her land at the will of the King. He can take it away at any time.  He decides that he does not like Charlotte Roses independent  Huganot mother. Therefore, he takes away the land, sends Charlotte Roses mother to a nunnery and puts her children in the hands of a stranger. This stranger will later send Charlotte Rose to the French royal  court, propelling  her on an uncertain journey that will lead her to the nunnery and her life’s work. Her position at court will rise and fall in accordance with the will of the king. Selina’s mother is raped when she refuses the sexual advances of a powerful man and Selina’s life depends on her ability to keep the interest of her male clients.

This book is full of real people. I really liked the description of the witch.  She is not simply drawn as an evil character who acts for no logical reason.  Instead, she is a well drawn figure who has her own story and motivations, becoming a sympathetic character.

The book itself is a beautiful object.  Christina Griffiths has done a wonderful job on the cover design.  It really gives the book a fairy tale feel. The whole book is a pleasure to read.  It would make a wonderful Birthday gift.

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